All of us when we receive a compliment, manage to achieve the desired goal, take a good grade or finish our studies with full marks, we feel emotions of joy, pride, and satisfaction that positively affect self-esteem and the sense of personal effectiveness. Everyone likes to feel recognized, appreciated, effective, competent, and capable.
And it is absolutely normal!
But what happens when we want to be top of the class at all costs? And above all, what is the price we pay for it?
In general, the first-class syndrome is characterized by the pervasive tendency to seek excellence and to want to excel in most contexts and situations (work, social, relational and family) of everyday life in an attempt, more or less conscious, to protect themselves from deep self-criticism and painful feelings of guilt and / or shame.
In fact, those who suffer from the syndrome of the top of the class end up feeling wrong, incapable, worthless and inadequate whenever they fail to be performing enough or find themselves facing situations in which they have made some mistakes and / or have failed.
We forget that making mistakes is also normal!
Thus the top of the class engages in an endless and often exhausting search for perfection that results in the tendency to invest all their physical, mental, and emotional resources in everything they do regardless of how authentically they care. This means that being first in class is so important to your self-esteem that it overshadows the possibility of asking yourself what I want, what I like, what interests me, and what I am passionate about. Therefore, this desire for success inexorably gnaws contact with the most authentic parts of oneself.
The side effects of this syndrome can include the difficulty in relaxing and enjoying free time, the tendency to worry excessively about the judgment of others, and to act according to it, the propensity to over-invest in work, and the inclination to experience intense experiences. anxiety and anguish in all situations that expose to evaluation (eg exams, competitions, job interviews, etc. ..).
Generally, those who want to be the top of the class have experienced parents who reacted with pride, satisfaction, and affection in the face of successes but at the same time were generous with reproaches, criticisms, disinterest, or emotional estrangement in the event of partial success and/or failure. . Even those who have always and only been devalued, criticized and offended by their parents without ever receiving a compliment can develop the syndrome of first-class: perfectionism becomes a desperate and never effective way to achieve that admiration and that love never obtained in the course of one’s childhood and adolescence.
An experienced psychologist or psychotherapist can help you understand why you try so hard to be top of the class and to support that part of you that wants to get rid of that unhealthy idea that to have value you must necessarily be on the podium.
Remember: it is not a number, an event, or an opinion that establishes your value!